You would think that a radio station that bills itself as playing “today’s hits and yesterday’s favorites” would have more Billy Joel on the playlist. Most of Joel’s songs that the station does play neatly fit in the weekday “classic lunch,” the one hour where songs older than the early 80’s are often played. So you’re very likely to hear “Piano Man,” “Just The Way You Are,” and sometimes outside of the show, “Only The Good Die Young.” I kid a bit, but only a little. The station does play its fair share of Joel classics. It’s just hard to hear them often when the likes of Meghan Trainor, Ariana Grande and even Justin Bieber or Selena Gomez are getting play alongside the artists of yesteryear. That’s nothing against any of them-they fulfill the “today’s hits” part of the station’s mission statement.
While Joel was never a critic’s choice, he was a choice of the people. Many of his songs have resonated throughout the years with many people. Count me among the many. When I was younger and told people how much I liked Joel’s music, there were a lot of funny looks and shoulder shrugs. What can I say—the man has a way with a pop hook. It is nothing for me to hear his songs played on that radio station and hum or even sing along with the words. His Greatest Hits Volume I & Volume II was in heavy rotation during my college years, and this was after I had most of his earlier albums. If ever a greatest hits collection made a statement for an artist, that album made it for Joel.
While that collection had a preponderance of his 70s output, he had quite a few memorable hits during the 1980s. One of those that just so happens to be one of my favorites is “A Matter Of Trust.” From the album The Bridge, released just after the greatest hits set mentioned above, the song was the second top ten hit and third top twenty pop hit released. It just so happens to have a fun video of Joel and his band playing the song in a building with the windows open so that everyone outside can hear the song and get into it.
No matter that he literally dropped the mic on pop music hit-making after 1997 (the last year a song of his charted; he hasn’t released an album of new pop music since 1993); his musical legacy is secure. Of course, he’s now become something like the person he wrote about in his song “The Entertainer”—when Joel now performs in concerts or goes on tour he “makes all kinds of money when he goes on the stage.” That’s what happens when your catalog is full of hits that people will sing along to and reminisce about. You can pick your spots as to when and where you want to perform and what songs you want to do. Of course there are certain songs that would have to be heard, and while today’s song may not necessarily be one of them, I’d hope to hear it if I saw him in concert. Hard to believe that Joel is now 67 years old; for me he might always be that “Angry Young Man.”
So do you like, love or loathe Billy Joel, or have no opinion? Whichever one you choose, I hope you enjoy today’s 80’s Mania Monday song. As always, thanks for reading and listening.